Review: The Haunting of Hill House

(I read this book as part of the Pay it Sideways Challenge. Join in anytime, we’d love to have you!)

Dr. John Montague is a doctor of philosophy, but his true passion is “the analysis of supernatural manifestations.” He’s been searching many years for a truly haunted location, and believes he has found that location in Hill House, an off-kilter, terrifying mansion tucked away in the countryside. He selects three people, Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke, each with a connection to the mansion or the supernatural, to be his assistants.

So it is that one bright summer day, the four adventurers arrive to plumb the secrets of Hill House. Everyone is instinctively afraid, but the mansion has no fear of its guests; rather, it likes them so much that it may make one of them stay — forever.

Heck yea (or ahhhh)!

Prior to picking up The Haunting of Hill House, I’d had two brushes with Shirley Jackson: I had to read her short story “The Lottery” in high school (freaking terrifying), and I’ve read and re-read Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, the chronicles of her life in Vermont raising her four kids and dealing with boxes of books and rapidly-multiplying cats (freaking hilarious).

I’ve always known that Jackson could craft a story, and wow, does that talent ever shine in The Haunting of Hill House. The mansion is tilted and grotesque, and its malevolence makes it a character unto itself.

Nothing solidly “paranormal” happens until about 90 pages in (and the book tops out at 174, so it’s a quick read), but I spent that entire first half feeling like a string being ratcheted tighter and tighter — there’s a sick feeling welling up through the narration, and I got almost as jumpy and frightened as the novel’s characters.

Most haunted houses are scary because there was supposedly a murder there, or it was built on a burial ground, etc. But The Haunting of Hill House proves that some houses are simply evil to the core.

And if that’s not enough to convince you to give the book a try (or avoid it altogether) consider that author Stephen King called it “one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn on every light in my apartment and sleep with my eyes open.

About the recommender

Two Bibliomaniacs is manned by a couple that, by their own admission, has “more books than are probably healthy.” I believe I discovered them through my participation in the Top 10 Tuesday meme, and their eclectic taste in books—and well-developed sense of humor—keep me coming back.

They’re on a big Shakespeare kick at the time of this posting, but they’ve reviewed everything from Martin’s Game of Thrones to Rand’s The Fountainhead. They recommended The Haunting of Hill House for its “impressive” character development and the fact that “every sentence makes you want to hide underneath your covers and close your eyes.” Check out their review here.

I’ve followed Two Bibliomaniacs for awhile now, and I’m glad to say they’ve never steered me wrong! Check ‘em out when you have a minute.

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